£150 million spent, but NHS still fails cancer patients in Scotland
• Delays in treatment of some cancers has risen
• Two month targets are not being met, despite 150 million investment
• SNP seeks examination of "huge regional disparities" in treatment rates
Key quote "For urgent cancer cases, the time taken to be seen for treatment is a matter of life and death, but some health boards are not even collecting the required information on how long people have to wait" - NICOLA STURGEON, DEPUTY SNP LEADER
Story in full DELAYS in treatment for patients with two of Scotland's deadliest cancers are getting worse despite millions of pounds of new Executive spending, it was revealed yesterday.
Official figures show that the percentage of bowel and ovarian cancer patients being seen within the Scottish Executive's target time of two months has dropped.
Improvements in waiting times for the other three biggest killers - lung, breast and skin cancer - were only slightly better.
The Executive has invested 150 million and recruited hundreds of new staff since 2001, when it pledged that by 2005 no patient with one of the five "main" cancers, who had been urgently referred by their GP, would be kept waiting more than two months for treatment.
But yesterday's figures showed that overall only 73.3 per cent of such patients were treated in time in the first quarter of this year.
Bowel cancer, Scotland's second biggest cancer killer, had the worst waiting times, with less than half of patients treated within the time limit, a fall of almost 10 per cent since the last quarter. Experts say survival is much improved if this cancer is detected at an early stage.
The number of people waiting less than two months for treatment of ovarian cancer fell from 85.7 per cent in the last quarter of 2004 to 78.9 per cent.
Elspeth Atkinson, director of Macmillan Cancer Relief in Scotland, urged action from the Executive. She said: "It will be causing an immense amount of stress for people waiting to find out whether or not they have cancer, and it is not acceptable."
Andy Kerr, the health minister, conceded that the figures were "disappointing".
He said: "We set a stretching target and have always recognised it will be difficult to meet. Today's figures show the amount of work boards need to undertake before the end of the year."
Waiting times have improved slightly for breast cancer patients, with 86.3 per cent treated within two months, up 1.5 per cent on the last quarter.
For lung cancer, the figure was up 3.3 per cent to 71.8, while in the case of melanoma, 75 per cent of patients were treated in two months.
Nicola Sturgeon, SNP's deputy leader, said the figures showed the Executive was failing.
"For urgent cancer cases, the time taken to be seen for treatment is a matter of life and death, but some health boards are not even collecting the required information on how long people have to wait," she said.
"It simply beggars belief that only now is the Executive looking to publish an 'action plan' geared to resolving this crisis."
The SNP also called for an examination of the "huge regional disparities" in treatment rates.
Dr Nanette Milne, the spokeswoman on health for the Conservatives, said: "Cancer is one of the big three killers that the Executive has been focusing on, so if it can't make any progress in this area, how will it improve the overall situation in the NHS?"
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